As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season. That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning. Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review. Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season. As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!
Player: Ryan Helsley
Season stats: 6-4, 1 SV, 3 SVO, 4.56 ERA, 51 G, 47.1 IP, 40 H, 4 HR, 27 BB, 47 K, 31 inherited runners, 4 inherited runners scored, 3.99 FIP, 1.415 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, -0.3 bWAR, 0.3 fWAR
Statcast: .329 xwOBA, 8.3 barrel %, 90.9 exit velocity, 43.2 hard hit %, 22.8 K %, 13.1 BB %
Best Statcast category: Fastball Spin (94th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: BB % (7th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 4, Goat 3
Positives: Had a 2.77 ERA after June 1….in that span allowed a .189 batting average and a .596 OPS while walking less than one every two innings….ended his season with four scoreless innings….held both sides under .700 OPS but was a little better against lefties (.639)….significantly better at home with a 2.65 ERA and a .188 batting average allowed….limited hitters to a .583 OPS in June….seventh place hitters slashed .120/.154/.120….if batters swung at the first pitch they put up a .486 OPS in the plate appearance….had a .374 OPS when ahead in the count….the first batter he faced put up a .394 OPS….allowed a .592 OPS with nobody on, which was lower than with runners on and was completely the opposite of the way we felt about Helsley as the season went along….twice had a bases-loaded nobody out situation and struck both batters out….bases-loaded, one out came out to be 0-6 with a walk, three strikeouts, and three sacrifice flies….with two outs and runners in scoring position, gave up a .111 average and a .278 slugging….had a .516 OPS in low leverage situations….had a 2.21 ERA with a day of rest….limited the Cubs to a .158/.238/.211 line.
Negatives: Scuffled early, posting a 6.75 ERA in the first two months….his season ended early due to injury and he missed the stretch run….had a 6.65 ERA on the road….had a 10.38 ERA in May while walking a batter an inning….eighth place hitters had an .848 OPS against him….if batters took the first pitch, they walked 25 times (in 139 plate appearances) and had a .758 OPS….allowed a .929 OPS on his first pitch….it was a .907 OPS if the batter was ahead….hitters posted a .742 OPS with one out in an inning….gave up a .687 OPS in high leverage situations and a .827 OPS in medium leverage ones….allowed two hits and two walks in eight plate appearances after 25 pitches….had an 11.81 ERA with no days’ rest….allowed a 1.055 OPS against the Reds….three of the four inherited runners he allowed to score came in one game against the Diamondbacks.
Overview: It really felt like, especially later in the season, that if you brought in Helsley with runners on and in a tough spot, he’d get out of it. Bring him in with the bases clear? Disaster was right around the corner. For instance, the last game he gave up runs in was against the Braves, where he started the inning, got a strikeout, then gave up a single and a homer. Two games before, he’d come in with one out and the bases loaded and got a strikeout and a popout. Helsley seemed to find his command as the year went along, which was key, and he regularly stranded runners, to the point that you wish he’d been healthy for Mike Shildt to go to in the wild card game instead of Alex Reyes. Losing Helsley hurt, even though the team managed without him, and hopefully he’ll be ready to go when spring training rolls around.
Outlook: There are some (like Mr. Kyle Reis) that still advocate for Helsley to get a shot at the starting rotation. However, with the pitchers they have and the fact that they mentioned Jordan Hicks stretching out as a starter and not Helsley, it definitely feels like that ship has sailed and Helsley is the new Trevor Rosenthal in that department. While that might not be optimal for Helsley’s long-term earnings, I do think it’s a benefit to the Cardinals. Having a fully functioning Helsley in the bullpen for 2022 will help the Cards significantly as they try to take the next step.